Until next time,
Okay, perhaps a bit more explanation. A style guide is just one form of documentation that I talked about last month. And I’ve mentioned style guides here and there in the past.
I’m a big believer in style guides. This admiration isn’t universal. Several people I’ve met think they’re too restrictive. Shouldn’t the designer have the ability to use whichever font, whichever color, whichever layout, they deem most appropriate? On the other side, I’ve talked with people who are frustrated that style guides change. What’s the point of mastering the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style if you know that there’s going to be an 18th edition?
Both views have significant points. Yet, given the chance, a training team should still, to the extent possible, work within the confines of a style guide.
For the team, for the designer, for the learner. There are many aspects of design that work best when they are never noticed. Changing the font from course to course can be distracting to the learner. Let the learner focus on the learning, not the font (and not changing color schemes or moving next buttons). Consistency not only matters across courses, but also across programs and throughout organizations. Accordingly, having a consistent set of style guidelines across web, printed material, training, and other modalities can help build a sense of organizational consistency.
Style guides do change, and they should. Stylistic conventions change over time. Skeuomorphic design (where elements look like real life) moved to flat design (more minimalism) and is moving to post-flat design. Apart from design decisions, different modalities demand different solutions. There are several aspects of print design that just don’t transition to the web. A good style guide maintains consistency, yet also remains flexible enough to accommodate change. It’s not an easy balance to master, but a wonderful feat once you have.
Finally, consider the freedom that a style guide gives your team. Yes—freedom. Fixing style decisions in a style guide enables designers and developers to focus on other aspects of their job. Once the question of whether to “click,” “choose,” or “select” a button has been settled, you can close that discussion. The hours that would have been spent fighting for individual preferences can instead be spent deciding which interaction would best enable the learner to master a particular learning objective.
Style is important and time is limited. Decide on what works best, document it, and update it when it’s appropriate to do so. Then use it. And spend the freed time ensuring that other aspects of training—motivation, applicability, engagement, accessibility—are as effective as possible.
Until next time,
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When Informal Communication Succeeds: A Tale from the Trenches | Does your elearning team always need an interaction catalog?
Using Pattern Libraries for Accessible Elearning | Takeaways from last year’s CSUN conference.
The Training Manager’s Introduction to Accessible Elearning | Infographic companion to the Training Manager’s Guide to Accessible Elearning explaining why accessible elearning is an important piece of raising training quality, availability, and effectiveness for learners, and for moving your organization forward.
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